The Teen Challenge Story

"This whole, strange adventure got its start late one night when I was sitting in my study reading a Life magazine, and turned a page.  …It carried a pen drawing of a trial taking place in New York City, 350 miles away".  -David Wilkerson

The Beginning

"The Cross and the Switchblade" is David Wilkerson's best seller that contains the true story of Teen Challenge’s beginning.  It all began late one night, when God challenged him to sell his TV and devote that same amount of time to Him in prayer.  Wilkerson asked himself what would happen if I spent two hours every night in prayer; It was an exhilarating idea, substitute prayer for television and see what happened."  Only God could've known the results of that amazing act of obedience, the  beginning of something that would save millions of lives.


The “adventure” mentioned in the first sentence of Rev. Wilkerson's book was God's way of birthing Teen Challenge.  Wilkerson was a Pennsylvania country preacher who God called to New York City in an attempt to speak with seven young gang members on trial for a senseless murder.  On February 28, 1958, he was escorted from the courtroom for asking the judge to speak to the gang members on trial.  He never was allowed to contact them, but he achieved something far greater.  In a dramatic chain of events, he was thrust into the alleys and tenaments where teens were decimated by drugs, gangs and poverty.  After months of outreach and gospel rallies, on July 12, 1958, he had his first converts, Nicky Cruz and Israel Narvaez.  Realizing they and others like them needed a safe place to begin walking out their newfound faith, he moved to New York City and founded the first Teen Challenge center.  He envisioned a safe place to disciple these lost and lonely street teens, a place where they would be changed with the message of God’s love.  Wilkerson knew that His God could deliver and set free and that addiction was not a death sentence.  












Since 1958

As word of the success at Teen Challenge spread, others wanted to use the Teen Challenge model in their cities.  In time, Teen Challenge became a global organization with over 200 centers in the USA and over 1,200 centers in 110 other nations.  These centers are helping adolescent boys and girls, women with children, married couples, adult men and adult women.

In a day when drug abuse and addiction has crossed every geographic, economic, cultural and ethnic barrier, Teen Challenge is a refuge where freedom can be found.  Every day God’s love and forgiveness is transforming lives from the inside out.  We offer hope for those who have found themselves in the devastating effects of addiction.  You can be set free too!


Your Story Starts Here

The stories of Teen Challenge continue to be about God’s power to change lives.  There is no such thing as no hope.  There is hope for every addict and there is hope for you.


If you or someone you love has addiction issues, there is hope.  Contact us today and let your story be one of God’s love and restoration.

"Certainly we cannot claim a magical cure for drug addiction.  The devil which hides in that needle is so deadly strong that such claims would be folly.  All we can say is that we have found a power which captures a man more strongly that narcotics.  That power is the Holy Spirit Himself, which unlike narcotics, does a peculiar thing for our men.  He captures to liberate!" -David Wilkerson



Rev. David Wilkerson, Founder


First Attempt to Reach Gang Members


Youth Outreaches in New York


First Center 416 Clinton St. Brooklyn, NY